Legion Baseball flashback: Remembering Tim McCarver

Legion Baseball flashback: Remembering Tim McCarver

Most casual sports fans remember Tim McCarver, the award-winning broadcaster who died Feb. 16 at age 81.

Some know he was a 21-year major leaguer, two-time All-Star, two-time World Series champion and a rare four-decade major leaguer as he played in the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.

But even fewer know that his path to baseball greatness came through Shelby, N.C.

Fifty years before the American Legion World Series first came to Shelby, McCarver and his Memphis American Legion Post 1 teammates were back-to-back American Legion Baseball regional champions at Shelby’s old Sumter Street ballpark in 1957 and 1958.

Under the direction of coach Tony Gagliano for Post 1 and at Christian Brothers High School, McCarver was a three-sport star who signed with the St. Louis Cardinals after his 1959 high school season on June 7 before making his major league debut four months later.

A star end in football, forward in basketball and catcher in baseball, McCarver would later have all three of his high school jerseys retired and be inducted into the inaugural class of the Memphis Sports Hall of Fame.

At Shelby, McCarver was a standout in both of Memphis’ regional tournament wins.

In 1957, he was a top hitter for a team that swept through the sectional capped by a 10-2 victory over Front Royal, Va. And in 1958, McCarver had two hits and one RBI in a 4-0 win in a regional championship game victory over host Shelby Post 82.

Each year, Memphis lost in the sectional final the following week — in 1957 to Greer, S.C., and in 1958 to New Orleans.

When McCarver signed with the Cardinals, he was considered a “bonus baby” by virtue of his $75,000 signing bonus and the fact that he was 17.

“He was probably the premier All-American boy in Memphis,” said J.J. Guinozzo, a Memphis native and longtime American Legion World Series official scorer. “He’s the only player I can think of who made all-city in football, basketball and baseball.

“In football, he was an end and helped his high school win championships. He was offered football scholarships to Arkansas and Memphis State but baseball was his main thing and so he signed with the Cardinals.”

McCarver spent all or parts of the next four seasons in the minor leagues — including half a season for the hometown Memphis Chicks — before becoming the Cardinals’ full-time catcher in 1963.

In 1964, his 10th inning home run gave St. Louis a win in Game 5 of the Cardinals’ seven-game World Series victory over the New York Yankees. He was again a World Series champion for the Cardinals in 1967 and a National League All-Star in 1966 and 1967.

McCarver also became a personal catching favorite of future Baseball Hall of Fame pitchers Bob Gibson and Steve Carlton. Eventually, McCarver would also play for the Philadelphia Phillies, Montreal Expos and Boston Red Sox. When he retired from baseball after the 1980 season, he was one of only 29 major leaguers to play in four decades and was ninth among major league catchers by catching 121 career shutouts.

He used his baseball knowledge and expertise to become one of the most trusted announcers in sports, working locally and nationally for NBC, ABC and CBS. A winner of three Emmy Awards for Sports Events Analyst, he was inducted into the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame in 2016.

American Legion Baseball

American Legion Baseball

American Legion Baseball enjoys a reputation as one of the most successful and tradition-rich amateur athletic leagues. Today, the program registers more than 5,400 teams in all 50 states, including Canada and Puerto Rico.

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